Defending Aviva Premiership Rugby champions Saracens continued their 100 percent start to the new season as Alex Lozowski inspired his side to a hard-fought 34-13 bonus-point win at Exeter.
All of the talk at Saracens this week has been about the fitness of England fly-half Owen Farrell ahead of the autumn internationals but in his absence stand-in Lozowski is sparkling for his new club.
After playing the chief role of architect of victory over Worcester in Saracens’ opener at the London Double Header last weekend; Lozowski was up to his old tricks again in the West Country.
The two clubs met three times last season – including the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final itself in May – and on each occasion it was Mark McCall’s Saracens that triumphed.
It was more of the same for Saracens against Exeter as tries from Lozowski, a double from Sean Maitland, Jackson Wray and Ben Spencer sealed the win for McCall’s men.
And after Lozowski opened the scoring for Saracens with a solo try that included a powerful hand-off against Exeter fly-half Henry Slade on four minutes – the defending champions never looked back. Alex Goode added the extras for McCall’s men.
Slade missed a penalty on 11 minutes to reduce the arrears, adding to an earlier miss for Saracens on two minutes from Marcelo Bosch.
From a driving maul after a line-out just before the 20 minute mark, things got even worse for Exeter.
After Jamie George was held up just short of the line, the ball was recycled quickly and wing Maitland went over in the corner, with Goode this time missing the conversion, to make the score 12-0.
Having kicked off their latest Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign with a 25-20 loss at Wasps last weekend, Exeter were hoping for an immediate riposte against the star-studded Londoners but they struggled to get going early on.
Exeter finally got on the scoreboard just before the half hour mark – Slade scoring a penalty from bang in front of the posts to make the score 12-3.
Despite reducing the deficit, it was frustrating for Exeter they didn’t get more of their appearance in the Sarries 22 after a series of attacks were just held up short by Saracens.
Richard Wigglesworth was sin-binned on 33 minutes for a reckless tackle on Slade – the England scrum-half using his legs to trip the Exeter fly-half.
And the error was further punished as Slade knocked over the long-range penalty to drag Exeter back to within six points of McCall’s Saracens.
With the numerical advantage, Exeter suddenly sprang into life in the final minutes of the half and replacement Max Bodilly thought he had scored in the corner for the Chiefs but Lozowski somehow got back to make a try-saving tackle.
Saracens started the second half strongly with Billy Vunipola particularly prominent with a series of carries but the visitors were unable to captialise on their dominance, with a kick through by Brad Barritt dealt with expertly by Exeter.
Sarries thought they had extended their lead on 48 minutes but England prop Mako Vunipola was bundled into touch as he dived over in the corner.
The champions stretched their lead on 53 minutes as Goode launched a long range penalty to make the score 15-6, while it could have been worse had the England full-back not missed another shot at goal just minutes later.
Saracens scored their try of the game on 58 minutes as Maitland went over in the corner.
A series of powerful drives by the Sarries forward pack, followed by quick hands and a clever off load by Lozowski created the opening for Maitland, with Goode adding the extras off the tee.
And Saracens added their fourth try of the afternoon just minutes later as Vunipola powered off the base of the scrum, steamrollered two Exeter defenders but offloading to Wray to score in the corner – Goode missed with the conversion.
Exeter got their first try of the afternoon on 69 minutes as Luke Cowan-Dickie bundled his way over for a score after a series of short drives, with replacement Gareth Steenson adding the extras for the Chiefs.
And Saracens added the gloss to their performance with a fifth score as a wayward pass found its way to Ben Spencer in added time, with Goode adding the extras for a 34-13 win.